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Cyrano: Synopsis

It is an exciting night at the theater. A handsome gentleman, Christian de Neuvillette, hopes to see the woman he has fallen in love with, Roxane. Ragueneau, a pastry chef, arrives looking for his friend Cyrano de Bergerac, who hates one of the play’s actors, Montfleury, and has ordered him not to perform. Cyrano, known for his skill with a sword and his sensitivity about his large nose, is Roxane’s cousin. When the play begins and Montfleury enters, Cyrano arrives and successfully threatens Montfleury off stage. A nobleman mocks Cyrano’s nose and Cyrano challenges him to a duel, winning even as he composes a ballad for the occasion. Once the commotion has ended, Cyrano confesses to a friend that he loves Roxane, whose attendant comes on her behalf to arrange a meeting between the cousins for the next day. Cyrano then learns that his friend, Lignière, is being ambushed so Cyrano leaves to protect him.


The next morning, as Cyrano waits at Ragueneau’s pastry shop for Roxane, he is praised by his comrades for his ballad-duel the previous evening. He tells them of his encounter with the men trying to attack Lignière. Cyrano quickly composes a love letter to Roxane, who arrives, but before he can give it to her, she confides that she is in love with one of the men in his army unit, the attractive Christian, whom she wants Cyrano to take under his wing. De Guiche, Cyrano’s jealous commander who hopes to marry Roxane, arrives and claims credit for organizing the previous night’s ambush, earning him further dislike from the men assembled. At their first meeting, Christian interrupts Cyrano’s attempts to tell his friends about the ambush by mocking his nose.


Unusually, Cyrano does not rise to the bait, instead offering in private to write love letters and speeches for Christian to repeat to Roxane and giving him the

unsigned love letter. Roxane confides in Cyrano about receiving Christian’s letter. De Guiche interrupts, preparing to leave for battle in command of Cyrano and Christian’s unit, but Roxane tricks him into deciding not to send the unit into battle by pretending to accept his love. On his way to court Roxane, Christian tells Cyrano that he will speak for himself but, when this falls flat, he is forced to beg Cyrano to help again; Cyrano does so with great success.


De Guiche sends a letter to tell Roxane he is on his way to see her again before he leaves for battle, but Cyrano delays the noble long enough for Roxane and Christian to be married. To punish the lovers, De Guiche announces that the unit will be going to battle after all and that Cyrano and Christian must leave immediately.

On the front lines, Christian and Cyrano endure a serious food shortage, while Cyrano continues to write Roxane for Christian, slipping letters through enemy lines. De Guiche, still holding a grudge against Cyrano, uses a spy to make the unit the target of the next enemy attack. Roxane interrupts the battle preparations after talking her way through the enemy lines with food in her carriage, dramatically raising the morale of the men. Roxane leaves to inspect the front lines, allowing Cyrano to warn Christian that he has been sending her extra letters in his name. Christian realizes Cyrano loves Roxane, who now loves Christian for his soul and regardless of his looks. Christian orders Cyrano to tell Roxane the truth and leaves to fight, but is carried back mortally wounded before Roxane learns the truth about Cyrano’s letter writing. As Roxane mourns Christian’s death and is carried away from the fighting, Cyrano leaves for battle, intending to be killed.


Fifteen years later, Roxane is in a convent, where Cyrano, now poor, weak, and unpopular, visits her daily. One day, Cyrano is seriously injured by one of his enemies. Instead of resting, Cyrano presses on to visit his cousin as usual, arriving late. He tells Roxane the latest court news, faints, and asks to read Christian’s last letter to her. Roxane realizes it was Cyrano, not Christian, who had composed the words she had fallen in love with, just as Cyrano dies of his injury.


Next: The Art of Wooing

Harvey Bagot. Letter to his father, Walter Bagot, and poem. Manuscript, 17 May 1609

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